Ways to get more out of short URLs

As I start to use Google Docs and Evernote more and more in my work, I am realizing how unwieldy they are when trying to share a document. If you try to send them in a tweet, it eats up all 140 characters. Fortunately, URL shorteners can help with long URLs, and they have other advantages especially in media campaigns. While there are a number of URL shortening tools, I will show you how to use Bit.ly as well as show you how to track a multi-media campaign with it.

The tool I use for shortening long URLs is called Bit.ly. I have to be honest, I do not use all of Bit.ly’s features. What I do use has been extremely beneficial. I use Bit.ly’s URL shortening feature. Additionally, I track the stats of of shortened URLs. Bit.ly will report each time the link has been clicked on. Bit.ly also allows you to customize the URL; this means you can make a customer friendly URL. Bit.ly also allows you to bundle like links, although, I have never used this feature.

You are able to shorten a URL from the Web page or with a browser extension. I personally shorten most of my URLs with the Google Chrome extension. With a click, I can get a manageable URL, one that I can track. Here are the steps for using Bit.ly to shorten a URL:

Shorten a URL

I have shortened URLs using two different methods with Bit.ly: Web site and Chrome extension.

Shortening with Website (not signed in)

  1. Copy the long URL of the Website URL that you wish to shorten. In this example, I will share a Google Slide presentation at https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1SGIEnos_mjPFR5CBd4JwN84eK673J13EruGU6qNyMxo/edit?usp=sharing
  2. Navigate to Bit.ly.
  3. Paste your URL in to the field provided and click on the Shorten button.  Note: if you wish to track the stats of your shortened link, you will have to log in first.
    Bit.ly URL field
  4. Copy the resulting URL by clicking on the Copy button.
    Copy URL from bitly
  5. Here is the resulting URL: http://bit.ly/15mRClF

Shortening with Website (signed in)

  1. Copy the long URL of the Website URL that you wish to shorten. In this example, I will share a Google Slide presentation at https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1SGIEnos_mjPFR5CBd4JwN84eK673J13EruGU6qNyMxo/edit?usp=sharing
  2. Navigate to Bit.ly and sign in.
  3. Paste your URL in to the field provided and click on the Shorten button.
    Bit.ly URL field
  4. Copy the resulting URL by clicking on the Copy button, or go to Step 5 to customize your URL.
    Copy URL in Bit.ly
  5. Enter a unique phrase in the Customize field and click on the Save button.
    Entering a customize name in bit.ly field
  6. Copy the resulting URL by clicking on the Copy button.
    Copy the customize URL
  7. Your saved URL will now be tracked in Bit.ly.
    Tracked Bit.ly URL

Shortening with Chrome Extension

When you install the Google Chrome Extension, a tool will be added to your browser toolbar.

Bit.ly Chrome extension

  1. Navigate to the page you wish to save as a shortened URL. In this example, I will be going to https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1SGIEnos_mjPFR5CBd4JwN84eK673J13EruGU6qNyMxo/edit?usp=sharing
  2. Click on the Bit.ly tool in the browser toolbar.
  3. Either 1) Copy Bitlink or 2) Customize the Bitlink and click on the Save button.
    Options when using the Bit.ly tool.
  4. The resulting link is now being tracked in your Bit.ly list of shortened URLs.
    List of Bit.ly Links

Using Bit.ly in an Advertising Campaign

When engaged in a marketing campaign, you are often sending potential clients to a specific Web site. However, you may be sending them to this specific site through a number of different methods. For example, you may be sending out multiple emails, providing a link on a brochure, linking through a QR code, etc. It would certainly be nice if you could track the results of these different approaches. One way to do this is through the use of anchors and Bit.ly.

Adding Anchors

In this example, I want to send customers to my new Website: http://tei.sunyjcc.edu/ Perhaps, I want to do it using five different methods: email message#1, email message#2, poster, postcard, and billboard.

One of the strategies I could use is including an anchor to the URL. Normally, anchors link to a specific place on a long Web page. In this case, the result would be that the customer would get to my Website; however, since there is no named place associated with the anchor, they would remain at the top of the page. Regardless, I could see the results along with the named anchor in the analytics. Here is an example of an anchored URL:

Each number would correspond to the method I am using to disseminate the URL. Yet, each URL will go to the TEI Website.

Using Bit.ly

After altering the URL, I could run them through Bit.ly and bundle the results so that I could quickly assess the results of the campaign. In this case, I have created the following links:

The resulting links are now being tracked. I am able to see which method is the most effective for this particular advertising campaign.

Campaign linked in Bit.ly

What strategy do you use to track your links across different distribution methods?

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